Phonograms and Telegrams.

What a world that we live in!

My father wanted to send either a Greetings Phonogram or a Telegram to a friend whose grand son is getting married.

Some of you may not know what a Phonogram is. It is a Telegram that one can phone in to a Phonogram telephone number. This was a standard procedure for those with a land line telephone and the charges would get added to the monthly telephone bill. Those days, the department was called Indian Posts and Telegraphs. I have sent many Phonograms in my time but with the advent of cheap telephone calls and subscriber direct dialing, I have not used the facility in years. I suppose that in those days, the Telephones was also part of the same Ministry or whatever. In fact, the local telephone directory offers a list of pre-coded greetings messages to choose just a number to save costs of sending a message by telegram.

To my chagrin and my father’s, we discovered this morning after a number of telephone calls to various worthies in the Postal Department, that the Phonogram facility has been discontinued for some time.

Next best, I suggested that we send a telegram. This too used to be a simple matter of going to a Post Office and filling up a form and handing it over to the Telegraph Operator with the appropriate fee. I have sent innumerable telegrams in my traveling days and there are many stories about telegrams that I have in my repertoire waiting to be blogged. Most people dreaded receiving telegrams as normally, they carried bad news.

We were in for a rude shock. The local Post Office, which distributes our mail in the local area, does not have a system to collect and transmit telegrams any more. The local Post Master agreed that telegrams are still in use and to reach rural India, they are the best possible way, but if we wished to send a telegram, we would have to go to the Central Post Office some ten kilometers away. He further informed us that they stopped the facility quite a few years ago as there was just not enough traffic to justify the cost of carrying the facility in each post office.

This exercise cost me about two hours of my morning and at the end of it, I had nothing to show for it. I shall arrange for the telegram to be sent from the Central Post Office tomorrow.

On reflection, it would appear that cities have access to telephones and mobile telephony has reached such depths in India at such low cost per call, that the sending of telegrams has simply come down to uneconomic levels for the department.

It also is obvious that other methods of communication like telex and faxes too are out with the advent of the email and the internet. I wonder why people still use the fax. Recently, I had to purchase a scanner and I was offered a three in one – fax, scanner and copier for just a little over the price of just a scanner and copier. Since I have not sent or received a fax in years, I did not take the offer and chose only the scanner/copier.

What is the situation with phonograms/telegrams in other countries that my readers reside in?

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